22 Questions to Ask Before Developing a Website
I developed this “Website Development Questionnaire” in 2002. It is old, but it still serves me well, so I thought I would share. I don’t actually add the bold or italic sections below. Those were added here to help you understand the rationale for the questions:
1) Corporate Identity: Corporate Information (for site development):
Company Name (Legal)
Company Name (Branding)
Company Tag Line:
Company Phone Number
Company Fax Number
Other contact information
Business hours of operation (store hours / when phones will be answered, if relevant)
2) Domain Names and Hosting:
Main Domain Name:
What other domain names do you own?
Do you have web hosting? If so, what type (IIS, Apache?)
3) Briefly describe what your company does:
4) Adjectives: Please list 5 (or more) adjectives that you think describe your company or should describe your company in order of relevance / importance
This information is used to get a sense for design, and to help in SEO
5) Competitors: Are there any websites that you would consider your “competition”? Feel free to provide more information on how they are your “competition”, but, at minimum, provide for each competitor, include the company name, web address, and a list of “keyterms” that describe what they do and/or sell.
In addition to getting a good look at what key terms they may be targeting, I take a look at these sites to get an idea of the features they may need, target audiences we should be considering, and what the competition will be like in terms of SEO
6) Favorite Sites: Please list 5 websites you like. Include the URL, what you like about each site, and what you would improve upon.
These sites don’t have to be in the same business realm. By getting sites they like, i get a good feeling for their design sense. By finding out what they would improve upon, you learn alot more about what they are looking for in their site.
7) Least favorite sites: Please list 5 websites you don’t like, Include the URL. What don’t you like about these sites? What redeeming qualities to they have?
The pitfalls they list tells you what you need to avoid. Though redeeming qualities are rarely included when clients fill out this list, I get a good sense of what they like when they do answer that question. I usually find that the redeeming qualities from this answer helps me understand better their answer to question 6 above.
Products / Services: List the top ten products / services you provide
This should be redundant to the answer of question 5. If it’s not, I usually have to do some business development with the client to get them to focus the purpose of their site. I ask this question this way as well because I don’t want to start developing a site for a client if they haven’t finished developing their business strategy.
9) Selling points: Tell us why you, your products or your services are better than your competition (both online competitors from question 3, and offline competition)
10) User goals: Why do you think people will visit your site? When people don’t know you exist, why would they find you or happen upon your site? Why would they come back? If they do know you, why would they take the time to visit your site?
Most clients think users will just come to their site. This question helps them focus on why an average Jane or John Doe may end up on their site. Many brochure sites get most of their visits from people looking for an address or phone number. You can create a one page website for that. This helps the client focus on what the site’s real goals should be.
11) Target Audience: What types of visitors do you want to get? Who is your target audience? (age, education, and other demographics? Job status? Economic status? Role in the community?) Describe your “average” visitor as best you can.
The layout targeting a Japanese middle school students will be very different from a site targeting rural agricultural workers or British graduate school applicants. Knowing your target audience, their culture, their technical savvy, and their internet expectations can help you design your page in terms of look and feel and help you determine site functionality and user experience design
12) Secondary Audience: What other visitors is your site going to get? Job seekers? Board members?
This helps me determine what additional pages to include in a site. Your client may be a sole proprietor, but they may want to hire, incorporate and/or get venture capital funding. Making sure your site can grow to accommodate future features is important. Thinking about those potential features before beginning the design process give you an added edge.
13) Technical: How technically savvy is your average visitor?
14) Accessibility & Usability: Will web visitors have any special needs? (eyesight, language, mobility, reading level?)
15) Site Purpose: What do you want the visitor in question 11 (and 12) to do when they get to your site? What are your goals for the web site in terms of visitor actions? What do you think your site visitor should accomplish on your site?
16) Site Goals: What are your goals for the web site in terms of you company goals? How is your site supposed to help your business? What is the purpose of your site?
17) Site Analytics: What are your goals for the web site in terms of popularity and virality? What type of exposure do you anticipate your website, when “successful” should achieve?
This question has dual purposes: The first is to help set numeric goals for the site that can be tested with common analytics. The second is to guage the sense of reality of the client: if they expect to reach 1,000,000 page views their first month, they’ll let you know their expectations via this question. This is the time to take some sense into them so they aren’t disappointed and don’t set their expectations too high
18) Site Features: What features do you think your website should include? (calendar, forum, login, price comparison chart, contact form, anything?)
For each feature, please state the goal of said feature.
Some clients want the moon. By stating the goal of each feature, they may realize they don’t need the moon. Other clients have no clue what is available to them. They never ask for a contact form at the initial contact, but i have yet to have a sole proprietor client who doesn’t want a contact form after reading this questionnaire they just never thought of it. This question helps define which features are necessary even if they weren’t originally thought of, and which ones sounded good originally, but really won’t help.
19) Site No Nos: Do you have any definite remarks on what you DON’T want to have on your website? (Flash, splash page, the color pink?) Sharing why you don’t want a feature will help me get an understanding of your user experience tastes, so feel free to elaborate.
This question is really helpful as is. Adding the examples has helped me explain against the dreaded splash page.
20) Other: Anything else I should know?
21) Product Manager: Company Contact(s) Information for web decisions:
Primary Contact Name:
Contact Email Address:
Secondary Contact Name:
Contact Email Address:
Other contact information
22) Billing Contact: Company contact information for Contracts & Billing:
Other contact information
Always know who is going to pay you before you start working
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